Friday, June 24, 2011

“Close The Door.” Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

“Close the door.”

I’ve been a mom for some 16 years now, which means, without exaggeration, I’ve uttered those three little words some 5,840 times.* In fairness, like most newborns, my firstborn couldn't actually close a door -- much less tee-tee in the potty -- for his first 18 months, but when you consider all the variations of "close the door"  -- “Why's the car door still open?” “Stop standing in front of the open refrigerator,” “Am I the only one who knows how to close the pantry door?” and “I’m not paying to air-condition the backyard,”** -- I’m pretty sure 5,840 represents only a sliver of the actual figure.

Sigh.  Those were the days.  As a parent of two teenagers, I’ve gone from “Close the door,” to “Open the door,” to “What are you doing in there?” to “Well, if you're not wrapping a present for me, then open the door,” and ultimately to, “Open the door.  Dammit.”

course I don’t really say that last bit. Not out loud. I hope.

Still, I don't understand how this happened.  I'm struggling.  "
Close the door" was my mantra.  "Open the door" doesn't roll off the tongue nearly so eloquently.  Besides, what is this need for privacy? What’s the secret? What are they doing in their bedrooms?  Believe you me, my kids are not wrapping gifts.  Presents to me are far and few between.  Besides, between the two of them, I believe only one knows where to find the scissors and scotchtape.

It's comforting, then, to know that after all my rapping and tapping, and pounding and nagging, I still have a predictable way to pry those doors open -- if only temporarily.  I pour myself a glass of wine, and send the following text message, "Dinner's ready."

Hear those sounds?  Those are doors.  Opening.

*  Once a day, 16 times 365 days a year.
**  An homage to my dad.  Re-worded to omit profanity.

Lemon Spaghetti (Spaghetti Al Limone) with Pan Seared Shrimp
After pork, pasta is my kids' favorite food group. The shrimp is optional.

1 pound spaghetti
1 palmful of salt, plus additional for seasoning
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
One pinch of red pepper flakes
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil with the palmful of salt.  Stir in spaghetti and cook just until done.  

As pasta cooks, in a large non-stick skillet, heat oil over high heat, tossing in shrimp, seasoning well with salt and pepper, and cooking until barely done -- about 3 minutes per side.  Remove cooked shrimp and set aside, reduce heat to low, and stir in garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon zest.  Saute until garlic is very fragrant and very lightly browned.  Before draining cooked pasta, stir two ladlefuls of pasta water into skillet with fragrant oil.  Drain pasta.  Stir cream, lemon juice and parsley into garlicky oil sauce in skillet.  Cook down -- about a minute or two.  Quickly stir in cooked pasta and herbs.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Toss with cheese, and serve hot!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ten Things Learned During Exam Prep

Exam prep continues apace Chez Wiles. As you might imagine, in such a serious and focused and studious atmosphere, Carter and Darling Daughter are learning by leaps and bounds.
Even I have learned a thing or two these past few days, including:

  1. Lionel, the 12-pound indoor cat does not choose to be worn as a hat
  2. The refrigerator contains the very same items it did 15 minutes ago. 
  3. Ditto the pantry. 
  4. The Rapture may not have occurred last weekend, but in one mom's humble -- no make that, "absolutely accurate" --  opinion, Facebook forebodes the end of all learning, focus and individual advancement. 
  5. Nobody else’s mom is as mean as I am. 
  6. French is easy. French exams? Not so much. 
  7. Josie-the-Rescue-Dog will eat green beans. And broccoli. And asparagus. And people of all ages will laugh.
  8. Cleanliness may, indeed, be next to godliness. But it’s not next to my kids. Or their rooms.  Not this week. 
  9. Oreo milkshakes are magic – which, sadly, does not translate to higher grades. 
  10. Everybody has a system for studying. For some people (to whom I gave birth), “system” translates into “a lack thereof.” I’m just sayin’. 
In all honesty, I shouldn't poke fun. No amount of studying would help me successfully pass Darling Daughter’s eighth grade exams – much less Carter’s tenth grade ones. And so, I cook. Tonight we had Grilled Ginger Lime Chicken – a new favorite, and super easy.

Grilled Ginger Lime Chicken
Try serving this with savory Cinnamon Lime Rice.

Juice of two (juicy) limes
¼ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 pinch cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt

6-8 boneless chicken thighs or breasts 

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bag and allow to marinate 30-60 minutes in the refrigerator.  Remove chicken from bag (discarding marinade) and grill, over indirect heat, just until done.  Do not overcook.